No time now to finish the cake, or to order a second cup of coffee. She must move on. And quick. There it is; on page five. All the little details. The police had arrived at her apartment next to the Silver Bullet Bar, off Washington Street, Champaign, Illinois. “It is quite clear that those in attendance appear to have left in great haste. The television set was still on and a tap was running in the sink.” Officer Brandon was reported as saying. “We are especially interested in questioning Ms Hang who had recently taken a lease on the property and appears to have been the occupant. She was last seen drinking in a nearby bar, but no one knows where she is now. But we urge any witnesses to come forward.”
She reads on, keeping her head down. Last night, in the motel, she’d cut her hair, even thought of dying it, but decided not to. An Asian with anything but dark hair might draw attention. And attention was the last thing she wants right now. She thinks of Janet Leigh at the traffic lights. And the Bates Motel. But she no longer has a mother to run to. Nowhere to go. Nowhere to hide. Instead of colouring her hair she bought a hat that she could pull down to shield her eyes. As she does now. Looking around to see if anyone seems to be noticing her. If anyone else is reading the paper. The news.
There in the middle of the page is her photo, with her parents. It was taken at their lakeside house, two summers ago. “Who would have thought such a terrible thing could happen,” she reads, hearing the sound of the janitor’s voice in her head. “Such a quiet, polite girl. Always said good morning and smiled. She was studying at the university. A very studious girl. Never caused any trouble. Parties or that sort of thing.” In the following paragraph the reporter describes the scene. She finds it hard to focus on the words. Enough is enough. More than enough. She folds the paper, tugs on the front of her hat and stands up to leave. There, right in front of her, is the waiter. He looks concerned, surprised.
‘Everything alright, Miss? … Something wrong with the cake?’
‘No … no,’ she says, startled; the strange way he seems to be looking at her. ‘It’s me … I mean … it’s not the cake … I just have to go now,’ all but pushing past him, dropping the paper, reaching to pick it up, then thinking better of it. ‘… it’s alright. Leave it … on the floor … I have to go … now.’
The waiter watches her hurry through the open door and then, through the café window, sees her fumbling with the keys to the white saloon car parked directly outside. Carefully balancing his tray of dirty plates and cutlery he bends down and picks up the pages of the newspaper that lie splayed open before him.